James couldn’t wait to get away from this place and the terrible events that happened here and to take Maggie with him. He wanted to take the two of them to a safe place, where they could hide from the world for a few days. A place, where he had her to himself, only his to protect, comfort and love and where the two could forget the horrors of the past few days and weeks.
He could understand, that she didn’t want to go back to the castle immediately. That place was neither private nor did it offer the necessary distance to calm down and escape from reality.
A hotel would be more pleasant, more discreet, but somehow it didn’t seem like the right place. Especially since word would get around very quickly, who had checked into the hotel, then their privacy would go down the drain.
While James was racking his mind, Sophia’s advice occurred to him.
How often had she raved about her ’little castle in the mountains? Her retreat and the place where she had spent the happiest time of her life with Matteo, her great love, a Half-Blood.
Back then, James smiled at her when she had suggested, to take his one person to her ‘magical small castle’ in the mountains, the one who loved him unconditionally, just the way he was and with whom he could let himself fall, knowing he wouldn’t be let down.
There, he and his loved one were supposed to build something strong, without being disturbed, a fortress of love and trust, that no one could penetrate.
James smiled, as he remembered his older sister’s words. How many times had he shaken his head, at her unwavering belief in love and teased her for her exaggerated romanticism.
How much did he wish, that he could still keep doing so. He missed her. She had always been there for him and even now it seemed, as if she was leading him the way.
After Sophia’s death, James couldn’t bring himself to sell her Chalet in Norha.
‘Chalet Eleonore’ was situated in the mountains of Norha, in a small village of the same name, Norha, which was about three hours by car from Ignis to the north.
It was too far to drive from Atonia to the mountains of Norha out of a whim, but from Ignis, the drive was manageable.
Now, that he was thinking more about this possibility, he liked the idea of bringing Maggie to Sophia’s romantic castle better and better.
There, they would be all by themselves. Hardly anyone knew of the existence of this place, not even Daina. Also, cell phone reception was extremely poor there, to put it nicely.
In winter, it was the most romantic place imaginable, but James couldn’t serve that. The chances of snow falling here in mid-July were zero. But that didn’t mean, that you couldn’t go back to the chalet in winter.
Without further ado, James decided to listen to his heart and drive with Maggie to ‘Chalet Eleonore’.
I hadn’t spoken a word since we’d left the parking lot. The whole time I sat with my hands clasped in my lap, next to Malachy in the car and stared silently out the window.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed how Malachy’s gaze kept wandering from the street to me. I just couldn’t say anything. I was so emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed, by all the things that had been going on in Ignis lately and especially today.
I would never forget the sight of Soraya, lying dead in my bed, for the rest of my life. How James, Daina and Darius could handle the situation so calmly was a mystery to me. Maybe it was because of the age difference between us.
On closer inspection, each of them was actually at least 300 years older than me. Who knows what disturbing things you got to see during this amount of time. But maybe I just wasn’t that tough.
I noticed, that the landscape was changing around me. You could clearly see high mountains on the horizon and we seemed to be driving right towards them. I couldn’t see much, because of the rain and the thick fog.
The twilight seemed to set in and the steadily increasing darkness, together with the terrible events of today, paid their tribute. I was terribly tired.
At some point, when Malachy concentrated on driving the car along winding serpentines, through dense forests, I must have fallen asleep.
My surroundings turned into a bizarre mixture of forests and our park in Ignis. I walked awkwardly up the little path to our house, with my clothes smeared in blood.
Even when I entered the house, which should be familiar to me, the arrangement of the rooms and furniture was completely different from what they should be.
I stepped into the brightly painted hallway with its scarlet seats, when I heard loud voices and amused laughter in the distance. Still perplexed by my familiar and yet strange surroundings, I continued walking in the direction, from which I heard the voices.
The imposing double doors, that led to the Romanovs’ dining room appeared in front of me. The closer I got to that door, the louder the voices got. I thought I had recognized Niklas and Daina’s voice. A strange combination.
All alarm sirens went on in my head and I wanted to turn around and walk away, but I couldn’t. It was as if an alien power had taken hold of my body.
I was shocked to see my right arm rising and my right hand grasping the doorhandle and then pushing it down.
The noises, that came from the dining room were now extremely disturbing and eerie. A mix of spiteful, sick laughter and loud clicking of glasses, cutlery and dishes.
The double doors opened in front of me, whether I wanted them to, or not. As I perceived the situation unfolding itself in front of me, my breath caught and my heart stopped beating.
Niklas, Thorben Stuart, his daughter Evelyn, Darius, Daina and Adrian sat at the festively decorated table, laughed and drank red wine as if everything was perfectly fine.
In the middle of the table, where usually an ornately tied bouquet of flowers was draped, surrounded by several silver candlesticks, was Soraya’s lifeless, blood-smeared body. She wore her light summer dress, which was soaked in blood over the entire front.
There were two empty chairs at the table, just waiting to be occupied. Now, I could hear Malachy’s voice right behind me. “Maggie, dear, please don’t be rude and don’t keep our guests waiting any longer. We should take our place quickly, otherwise the delicious food will get cold.”
I grimaced in horror and disgust and shook my head, as I tried to evade this morbid situation.
Something touched my cheek and again I heard Malachy’s voice: “Maggie, love!”
In a panic, I hit whatever touched me. My heart was racing. I just wanted to flee, to escape this madness that seemed to invade everyone.
Now, a hand closed around my arm, which only made me panic even more.
“No I do not want to go!” I screamed loudly and tried to tear myself away.
I opened my eyes in horror and stared into Malachy’s worried face. What was going on here? Where was I?
I blinked a few times and realized, that I was still in the car with Malachy.
He sat, slightly bent over me and looked at me with a worried expression. His hand, which had just held my arm, now wandered to my face and caressed my cheek, lovingly and soothingly.
“Is everything okay with you, love?”
With a mix of head-shaking and nodding, I replied, “Yes, it was just a nightmare.”
Was that my voice? Good thing I was sitting. My trembling legs couldn’t have kept me upright. That dream had been so real and scary.
I took a few deep breaths and then looked around me, through the tinted car windows.
It was almost dark, now. We stood in a parking lot in front of a small, beautiful chalet in the mountains. Except for the lighted house in front of us, there didn’t seem to be anything else here. We seemed to be in complete isolation.
If I hadn’t been so upset inside, I could have appreciated the special and unique beauty of this place much better. At the moment, I was just glad Malachy hadn’t brought me back to Castle ‘Green Willow’.